Purdue News

June 9, 2005

Purdue sports program keeps children moving for fitness, fun

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Purdue University's National Youth Sports Program continues to attract students with its emphasis on physical fitness, but this is just one component of the five-week program.

Medical screenings
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"National Youth Sports Program at Purdue has grown into so much more than a place where children can learn how to play new sports," says Thomas Templin, head of the Department of Health and Kinesiology and program administrator. "The program is about healthy living, developing leadership skills, participating in community outreach and building self-confidence. The campers keep coming back because they are excited about the program's activities, and their parents realize the opportunities this program provides their youngsters."

The number of campers has doubled since the camp started with 200 in 2002.

The fourth annual camp will take place from June 16 through July 22, and children ages 10-16 will attend weekdays from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. The camp is free for those who are referred by their schools in Tippecanoe and White counties.

Even with additional components, such as community outreach and computer skills training, physical activity is the basis of the program. The activity stations and classes are scheduled to be a walking distance of at least 10 minutes apart to guarantee that children walk at least 60 minutes a day. The sport stations include judo, softball, volleyball, tennis, track and field, and aerobic fitness.

"Yes, we want children to be healthy by exercising and eating right so they can avoid chronic health problems such as obesity and adult-onset diabetes," says William Harper, professor of health and kinesiology and the program's activity director. "Purdue has done its own pre- and post-fitness tests with children since the program started. We see significant changes in their fitness levels, such as weight loss, in the five weeks.

"But, this program is about possibilities. A child may never play volleyball or tennis after the program, but that child will realize they can try and learn new skills and explore their talents."

Swimming at Purdue's Boilermaker Aquatic Center, one of the most popular camp activities, is offered every day. Judo also will be offered daily by members of the Purdue Judo Club.

"Judo is not only a great physical activity, but it also teaches self-control and respect for others," Harper said. "Every day children will dress in judo uniforms, then bow to each other as they learn this martial-art form.

"Judo is an example of how our activities can help children boost their self-esteem and develop self-control, which are part of National Youth Sports Program's goals. We want to reinforce the concepts that families and schools are teaching children about positive life skills."

All campers must have completed a medical screening prior to camp. About 400 children were seen by medical providers, including nurses, nurse practitioners and physicians from Purdue's Student Health Center and School of Nursing, as well as Delphi Community Clinic, Unity Healthcare, and Sigma Medical Group. The Student Health Center also provides medical services to campers during the program.

"The Student Health Center continues to support this program because it is an important opportunity that can influence the educational and career choices of these children," says James Westman, director of the Student Health Center.

The medical screenings help identify possible health complications and also record health information that Purdue can use to track the program's success.

"Nationally, we are seeing a growing number of children who are considered overweight or obese, and this can lead to health problems such as type 2 diabetes," says Marie Pickerill, clinical assistant professor of health and kinesiology and the program's medical coordinator. "It's important to assess which children are at risk for such health complications before they affect a child's quality of life."

The campers also will attend two health classes – one on nutrition and the other on substance abuse. In addition to the health component, the campers also will learn about career opportunities and writing and computers skills. Purdue is one of four sites piloting the integration of writing in National Youth Sports Programs. The funding for this pilot project came from Lilly Endowment Inc.

The camp costs nearly $250,000 to run. The federal government covers one-third of the cost, and the remainder is the result of support from Purdue's Department of Health and Kinesiology; College of Liberal Arts; Department of Speech, Language and Hearing Sciences; Office of Engagement; the Provost's Office; Division of Recreational Sports; Residence Halls; Intercollegiate Athletics; and the Student Health Center.

The community also supports the program, including local financial institutions and retail businesses. Family night on June 30 at Tropicannoe Cove is sponsored by Lafayette Parks and Recreation and the Assembly of God Church. In the past, donors also provided shoes for campers. In addition, the Coca-Cola Foundation gave $50,000.

Also, community members from law enforcement, hospitals, parks departments, non-profit agencies, businesses, public schools and key Purdue administrative offices serve on an advisory board to promote and support the program.

"The community has done so much for the camp, and we want the children to learn the importance of giving back," Harper says. "This year groups of children will work on 10 to 12 service projects by helping local community agencies."

The program's staff includes about 40 Purdue students who serve as team leaders. Older campers, such as Katelyn Lopez, also are recruited to serve as junior team leaders so they can improve their leadership skills.

"I can't wait because I really like this camp," says Lopez, a 15-year-old student at Twin Lakes High School in Monticello. "I'm looking forward to this year as a counselor because I like working with kids, and I want to be a teacher."

Lopez has attended the National Youth Sports Program camp for the past three years and was one of two campers to win a bicycle for regular attendance. Her mother, Kelly Garrett, says the program is something the family looks forward to because it also involves parents in activities.

The national program has honored Purdue's camp for its achievements, including being named best new program in 2002 and recognition for its 2004 program. Now Purdue is taking a leading role in analyzing the effectiveness of the national program.

"National Youth Sports Program has only been able to verify anecdotally that any of the goals set by the program have made differences in children's lives," Harper says. "So Purdue started a long-term study that will compare campers from Lafayette School Corp. with children from the same school corporation who did not participate in the program."

The study will look for differences in academic progress, grades, discipline problems, extracurricular activities, standardized tests, graduation rates, postsecondary training or education, and health measurements, such as height and weight.

The National Youth Sports Program started 35 years ago and now operates at more than 200 colleges and universities, including the University of Indianapolis, University of Notre Dame and Marian College.

Writer: Amy Patterson-Neubert, (765) 494-9723, apatterson@purdue.edu

Sources: Thomas Templin, (765) 494-3178, ttemplin@purdue.edu

William Harper, (765) 494-1518, wharper@purdue.edu

Marie Pickerill, (765) 494-3172, mhornyik@purdue.edu

James Westman, (765) 494-1720, westman@purdue.edu

Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096; purduenews@purdue.edu


Chelsea Ashworth, a 10-year-old eighth-grader, receives a screening exam on Monday (June 6) from Dr. Andrey Seluzhitskiy, of the Purdue University Student Health Center. The health screenings were part of the fourth annual National Youth Sports Program. Children, ages 10-16, will attend weekdays from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. from June 16 through July 22. The campers will learn new sports, participate in fitness activities, take health classes, give back to the community and practice computer skills. The number of campers has doubled since the camp started with 200 in 2000. The camp is free for campers who were referred by their schools in Tippecanoe and White counties. (Purdue News Service photo/David Umberger)

A publication-quality photo is available at https://www.purdue.edu/uns/images/+2005/NYSP-exam05.jpg


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